Fact checking the postal hysteria

MYTH No. 1: The Postal Service is removing sorting machines to sabotage delivery: REALITY: The volume of mail has plunged in recent decades, due to the spread of electronic communication. As a result, the amount of infrastructure needed to manage the flow of mail also has declined. The Postal Service has been consolidating operations for years to reduce costs, a practice that predates President Donald Trump.

The Daily Signal

MYTH No. 2: The Postal Service is removing collection boxes to block mail-in ballots.

REALITY: The Postal Service has more than 141,000 blue collection boxes spread across the country. Those boxes are moved regularly from low-demand to high-demand areas to maximize efficiency.

MYTH No. 3: The Postal Service is locking collection boxes to prevent public access.

REALITY: Locked caps are sometimes put on collection boxes in areas where there is a rash of mail theft. Employees place the caps after the final pickup of the day and remove them in the morning, since collection box theft is overwhelmingly done at night.

MYTH No. 4: The Postal Service could go bankrupt before the election without a $25 billion bailout.

REALITY: Although some were concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic would push the Postal Service over the financial edge, revenues have been stable, thanks to a big increase in package deliveries.

MYTH No. 5: The Postal Service plans to triple postage rates on mailed ballots.

REALITY: The Postal Service provided commonsense guidance to state and local governments regarding how to handle time-sensitive ballot requests. This guidance was already in the works before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy began his job.

Most mail-in ballot requests are made weeks or even months in advance, and thus can safely be sent using low-cost, second-class mail. However, some places allow for mail-in ballot requests a mere four days before the election. In those situations, it makes sense to use full-cost, first-class mail to ensure that voters get their ballots on time.

MYTH No. 6: Postal Service delivery changes are illegal “sabotage” by the postmaster general.

REALITY: DeJoy, who assumed the postmaster general’s post in June, was selected in large part due to his decades of experience as CEO of New Breed Logistics, a supply chain company.

The logistics industry’s focus is on maximizing cost-efficiency and on-time performance, both of which the Postal Service needs to improve. With that in mind, DeJoy has undertaken initiatives aimed at reducing costs and improving service levels.

It’s too early to tell whether these changes will be successful, and DeJoy has announced a suspension until after the election. While the media reliably reports alarming anecdotes from postal union officials who oppose cost-cutting efforts, data shows that postal performance has not yet experienced a significant change under DeJoy.

MYTH No. 7: The Postal Service needs more money to process mailed ballots.

REALITY: The Postal Service handled about 2.75 billion items per week in 2019, with spikes at various times of the year, such as the holiday season. Mail-in ballots will represent at most a few percentage points of total volume this fall, even with an expected increase in requests due to COVID-19.

MYTH No. 8: The postmaster general “massacred” Postal Service management.

REALITY: When DeJoy took over in June, there was a modest amount of personnel change within the top levels of Postal Service management. Much of that involved internal promotions. Senior departing staff were replaced by experienced employees.

New leadership at the top of a large organization almost always includes some amount of change underneath, and the Postal Service is no exception. The change is similar to what happened when previous postmaster generals took over, rather than a heavy-handed “takeover.”

MYTH No. 9: The Constitution requires a government-run Postal Service.

REALITY: Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to establish post offices and to provide for “postal roads.” That doesn’t mean that post offices and roads are mandated, or that badly needed cost savings are a constitutional crisis.

MYTH No. 10: The Postal Service loses money only because of unfair funding requirements.

REALITY: The Postal Service is weighed down by exceedingly high employee compensation costs, which averaged more than $97,000 per worker in 2019. Part of that includes a retiree health plan, which has obligations similar to a pension. ….

Claims that the health benefit prefunding is “unfair” ignore the fact that retiree health benefits are uncommon (especially outside government) and ignore the fact that postal employees are entitled to the benefits.

One alternative to prefunding is allowing the health plan to accumulate massive liabilities, which would guarantee an even bigger financial crisis than what the Postal Service is already facing.